Let's just put this out there first.
Parenting is hard work.
Training is hard work.
Combining the two makes for seriously hard work. The physical demands are there, but it's the emotional yo-yo of juggling the two that makes the journey a tough one.
I won't lie. I've thought longingly of how much faster and better conditioned I could be if I had all the time that the single, kid-less athletes have. I've read posts and blogs about the single folks out there harping on the married, with-kids couples, stating how they are just as busy and that we think they have all this time when they don't.
Well, I'm not here to start a debate, but I will say I've been single and kidless; I've lived the difference. When you have a family, you don't have the luxury of sorting your priorities the same way you do when you're single and without kids. There is no rearranging of time. You might have obligations and for many there may be variables outside your control. But, for the moms and dads who have mouths to feed, sleepless nights, homework, carpools, gymnastics and soccer, we have a different life to maneuver through in order to reach our goals in training.
Let me say this. Busy or not. Hard or not. All of this is still our choice. We don't HAVE to train while we are in this season. We didn't HAVE to have kids. (Although I'll say neither of my children were planned.) But, that doesn't stop the daydreams of being able to completely immerse yourself into your hobby without having to share your energy, sleep, food, money and time with 3 other individuals.
It is what it is though. For those of us who do have those uncontrollable variables in life, whether it's a job, family, physical limitations, caretaking or any other factor, learning to train and accept your capabilities is difficult.
As a mom, business owner, wife and other 'hats', I've found a few life hacks that have helped me focus on my training.
iTRI-Mom Hack #1
You hear this a lot, but it's easier said than done. I still struggle with getting this right. It's especially hard when you have kids that don't want to eat what a starving, trying-to-be-healthy, athletic mother wants to eat. I've compromised. I've found a few crockpot recipes that my kids will actually eat! (Chicken fajitas, apricot chicken and rice) And a quick skillet recipe (balsalmic chicken & mushrooms/green beans).
Pinterest is my BFF. So are my friends who post great meal prep ideas or show me FB pages to follow with easy tips. (TipHero, Tasty) I'm all about those little 45 second videos with the super speed instructions.
My stress level increases like crazy when I have a set to do and I have 2 little mouths who are tired, hungry and doing the, "Momma... momma....momma...I'm hungry. I don't want that. I want cinnamon rolls. I want gum. I don't want THAT." Multiply that times the number of kids you have and you're already too drunk off the wine you drank to settle your nerves to even complete the set you were supposed to be doing.
So I can't stress meal prep enough. When I get it right, I remember how valuable it is. When I forget to do it, I remember how valuable it is. Just do it. Just try.
iTRI-Mom Hack #2
I know, it costs money. But so do your race entries, travel expenses, tri gear and nutrition. Look at your budget, start selling a few items a month on Ebay or FB selling group, cut back on Sbux or lower your cable subscription. Find the money. If you can find it for triathlon, you can find it for your sanity and training's sake.
I'm picky about the times I hire a babysitter. I do it for those important building sets. That 3 hour bike ride, that 2 hour run, that brick set. Even if it's twice a month or once a week. Getting that time to do your set, without being rushed is a luxury you need to afford.
If you have friends, trade out training times. If you have a local gym membership, opt for the dreaded treadmill run while they're in the daycare or take your bike and your trainer TO THE GYM and set up shop for a spin set. I've done both. At the peak of my Ironman training, I even went so far as to BEG my daycare manager to allow me to go for the hour and a half swim I desperately needed. (That's the heart of a hometown relationship)
If you have family, trade one of your lovely crockpotted meals for a couple hours of watching the kids. Get creative. Don't be prideful. Ask for help and be willing to give it in return.
iTRI-Mom Hack #3
Find other athletes who juggle the same life you do.
And vent. Often. Get it off your chest! Most of the time, just the stress of having to figure out my schedule like a game of tetris is enough to make me go crazy. Trust me. You don't need anymore stress than you have to have.
Releasing the lid on that pressure cooker is therapeutic for your emotional and mental health during training. Talk to other moms, understand you're not alone. Share your tips, complain about your lack of sleep, your coffee addiction, how bad the last set was, how your run was the only thing that saved the day, that if you have to fold another damn load of laundry you're going to burn all the clothes (except your workout attire, of course). After you let it go, you feel a million times better, you think more clearly, you breathe easier and you can make a better game plan.
The 'Women for Tri' FB page has a great audience of women who get this. Join that page and share your pains and your gains.
iTRI-Mom Hack #4
Make time for self-care.
This looks any way you need it to. Whether it's that long bath right before you go to bed, scheduling a much needed massage, making that appointment with the chiropractor, reading a book (don't ask me when), taking the kids to the park so you can catch up on FB or IG, coloring in one of those adult coloring books (that's actually very relaxing and the kids can color with you), watch an episode of trash tv, take the yoga class, or if you're like me, pour the glass of wine, turn on Pandora and just sit down... anywhere... even the closet.
iTRI-Mom Hack #5
And my last life hack... intentionally do something with the kids.
Yes, you bathe them, feed them, help them with homework, answer 5 million questions, clean up puke, wipe the dirty butt (or change diapers for you superwomen out there)... but, even in all that mothering, I know you have those tinges of guilt.
When you decide to actually play with them, intentionally, even if just 30 minutes, it makes a difference. When you give them that undivided attention, without thinking about your to-do list, you alleviate that guilt.
When you get done laughing and carrying on, you have that feeling of "I'm a good mom." And that does wonders for your psyche.
I'm not implying you should have been feeling guilty to begin with. But, again, if you're like me, you struggle with having a hobby that requires so much of your time. You struggle knowing there's a thousand things to do and you still want to do things for yourself. It's like this cultural built-in shaming that comes along with motherhood.
Well, I'm here to say that you deserve to have your own hobby, your own time, your own dreams. Yes, you have some little humans who require your attention and need to take priority during this season of life, BUT, you're allowed a life too.
Yes, we all may know this, yet, still those feelings creep in. It's becoming my experience that if I can set aside some intentional time with my kids, I don't have that feeling nearly as strong or as often.
My hat is off to every female athlete out there anyway but I have a super huge virtual hug for all those moms out there who are working their asses off to train and parent and <insert any other label here>
It's tough. It's work. But, this is life. How awesome and amazing is it that we are blessed to be doing these things???
And just think... we're gonna be hell on wheels when the day comes that we do have that free time. I don't know what age group that'll put me in... but watch out!
YOU are amazing. YOU are beautiful. YOU are capable. You've got this.